Little Pepper or Szechuan Gourmet recs?
I'm planning on branching out from Spicy and Tasty and trying a different Sichuan place in Flushing. I've had take-out from both LIttle Pepper and Szechuan Gourmet, but I've only had veggie and fish dishes (long story). So I'm hoping to eat at one of these places and to go whole hog, as far as food goes. Are there any particular don't-miss dishes I should be aware of?
Szechuan Gourmet has been my go to Sichuan place for a few years now, and I just keep coming back. I tried the various competitors earlier this year and ordered my favorite Sichuan dishes, and most of the time it didn't taste as good as SG.
I usually order the same thing so this is a short rec list:
-Braised Beef Filets- with napa & roasted chili (The fish version is just as good if not better)
-Ma po tufo
-Wok Tossed Crispy Beef Filets * with roasted chili cumin (May be too much cumin for most people)
However I really do not recommend their Dan Dan noodles. You can get it cheaper and better at Chengdu Heaven.
At Little Pepper:
Lamb in hot and spicy sauce
Pickled cowpeas with pork
Cucumber with mashed garlic
You might as well get Twice Cooked Pork and Mapo Dofu for comparison's sake since they are excellent as well.
$2 Tsing Tao
I'm always eyeing the ma la fish ($30 on the Chinese-only wall menu), but have yet to order it.
At Szechuan Gourmet:
Whole fish with tofu (pay the extra $ for a live fish from the tank).
Suan la noodles (hot, sour and numbing)
This may or may not be in line with how you might describe going "whole hog" at Little Pepper (which, by the way, I have always had a memorable experience and second the spicy lamb recommenation), but Serious Eats just had a description of a meal held at Little Pepper by "an adventurous eating club" called the Gastronauts.
My close friend and I have recently done exactly as you have suggested, branching out form S&T to try out Little Pepper. I think their cumin-spiced lamb is one of the best sichuan dishes I have ever had (the spices also remind my of the streetside kebab grill that does spicy lamb skewers right off Main St - another not-to-miss). While the lamb is memorable, the one thing we have not been able to find at Little Pepper (and i believe that this is our fault for not ordering right and/or insisting on getting help sorting through the chinese menu) is a dish that is similar to the special Sichuan Pork dish that is located on the last page of the S&T menu. The picture of oneof the dishes from the gastronaut post, though, looks very similar: Juan ni du pian, or shredded pork stomach in spicy sauce. The ribbons of pig stomach were pleasantly chewy and had some nice heat thanks to their bath of chili oil. That dish, even for usually not very offal-focused eaters like us, is ethereal. Even though we have often suspected that it was made with a cut of meat that we would likely never find in our local grocery, the taste and texture is so beguiling, that just the mention of S&T or anything similar to that dish brings up visions and memories of exotic tastes.
I stick to Little Pepper if I want a full restaurant (as opposed to Chengdu Heaven.)
If I were you I'd get the lamb with cumin, a whole fish dish (ei. the ma la fish that's on the wall or the sweet/sour, the beef jerky appetizer, the Sichuan noodles, and another dish that you just think sounds good. I did a similar meal there recently. I always go eat there when I fly back home, because it's open quite late and I can do an absolute banquet to purge my system of plane food. I don't usually get ma po do fu or hui gou rou there because I think that Chengdu Heaven does both a lot better.
Oh! Also good are the tripe in garlic sauce, cucumbers in garlic sauce, the pork with cloud's ear mushrooms is pretty good but I make better, the three mushrooms dish is also good but I make better, etc.
I have to get the dried sauteed green beans every time I go to Little Pepper. We also always get a fried whole fish, sooo wonderful. We have been unimpressed with the double cooked pork, and last time we went, our friends ordered dumpling soup which was pretty abysmal. If you get the right things though, it is downright transcendent.
I recently got ma la fish/ take-out (and unfortunately, had to take it all the way to Boston before getting a chance to eat it!) It was around $14 (thus maybe a different dish from the Chine menu/wall one?) and while quite good, not the best I've ever had (but then, we have some great food up here in Boston!)